Friday, May 10, 2013

The London Howlin’ Wolf Sessions

By the mid-1960’s, Chess was always looking for new ideas to market their blues artists to the rock’n’roll generation. The rock musicians were all influenced by the Chess cats but many of the listeners were not aware of the originals that the rockers were making famous. There were a lot of unsuccessful attempts at cross-over, but this one actually worked. Gathered here were some (very) famous rock’n’rollers who still carried a high regard for geniuses like Wolf and his guitarist Hubert Sumlin.

The main group here consists of Eric Clapton, Bill Wyman, Charlie Watts (superb rhythm section for this stuff), and Hubert Sumlin, along with Steve Winwood, Jeffrey Carp (harp), Ian Stewart, and, on single tunes, Ringo, Klauss Voormann, Phil Upchurch and even Lafayette Leake. This CD is expanded to include songs that wouldn’t fit on the original album (released in 1971) but everything is pretty damn high quality.

There is a mix of Wolf’s hits and some lesser known tunes – show-stoppers like “Little Red Rooster” (the man shows Clapton how to play the slide part correctly), “Do the Do” (Wolf sounds a little hesitant here and there is some other talking on the track, as well – maybe this was early in the sessions?), “Killing Floor” and “I Ain’t Superstitious” rub shoulders with “Goin’ Down Slow”, “I Want to Have a Word With You”, “What a Woman” and more. There are a couple of takes on a few tunes and some studio dialog, giving the listener a bit of a feel for what was going on during the recordings.

While Wolf’s health wasn’t the best at this time, he is still in excellent voice and his presence exudes right through the speakers! Numbers like “What a Woman” and “Who’s Been Talking?” rival the originals (not besting them, but just updating them in a good way while staying true to the original feel). Of course, the early Wolf is the most powerful Wolf and those records are mandatory for any lover r’n’r and the blues, but this is some pretty fun stuff, as well. Worthwhile!